By Alan Scherstuhl
By Amy Nicholson
By Charles Taylor
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Brian Feinzimer
By CAROLINA DEL BUSTO
By AMY NICHOLSON
By Amy Nicholson
We just called up his agent and asked if James would narrate this at a nonprofit rate, and he said, yes, if he liked the subject. We sent off our script, waited a few weeks and finally heard that James loved the subject. After that, it only took him one day in a New York studio to do the narration on the then almost-completed film.What part of the film are you proudest of?
Just finishing and hearing the comments from some of the viewers is the most gratifying thing. Some people even said they cried with happiness as they realized the implications. That feels good!
The Great Year screens at The Orange County Museum Of Art, 850 San Clemente Dr., Newport Beach. April 20, 6 p.m.ROB AITRO AND THE SCHLUB WHO WOULD BE KINGTogbe tells a story that sounds like a lowest-common-denominator comedy: an average white guy visits an African nation, is stunned when the locals proclaim him the reincarnation of their king, and suddenly finds himself ruling 300,000 people. But Togbe is not some laughless, Tim Allen comedy; it's a documentary. Sometimes life is stranger than anything Hollywood can dream up, as filmmaker and Fullerton native Rob Aitro explains. OC Weekly:When did you first hear about this crazy story?Rob Aitro: From producer David Klawans. He was my college roommate. David surfs the web, searching for true stories to make into films. He came across this story of an unemployed Dutchman who was found to be a reincarnated king in Ghana. He e-mailed me the story while I was crashing on somebody's floor at Sundance. We got the rights to film this man's life, and three months later, we were off to Ghana. What was the most difficult stage of getting this picture made?
We arrived in Amsterdam ready to start production before traveling to Ghana. A bomb was dropped on us when we discovered that Henk Otte, our main subject, was being denied a visa to travel to Ghana by an offhand remark he made in an Associated Press interview. So there we were: an entire film crew ready to fly to Ghana, and the entire production is ready to collapse because the embassy wouldn't release his visa. Then, without getting into detail (because we want people to go see the movie), things ended up working out.Oh, come on! You say something like that, and of course I'm going to want to hear all the details.
Well, the crew decided to take a chance and fly to Ghana with Henk Otte's wife and son and pray to the gods that the embassy would finally give him his visa. It was absolutely crazy; we flew to Ghana not knowing if Henk Otte was ever going to arrive. If he didn't show, there would be no film. However, we were determined as a team to finish what we started. We had faith that sooner or later, the Ghanaian Embassy would give him his visa. The problem was that now we were all in Ghana without our subject matter and we hadn't budgeted enough money to spend the time without him there. Anyway, the embassy did finally give Henk his visa about a week later. Ironically, one of the better scenes in the documentary is his emotional arrival in Ghana. That's the beauty of documentaries: you never know what you're getting yourself into.If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
The biggest mistake was not realizing the amount of time it would take to complete this documentary. This film was shot in the summer of 2000, and it took three years to have the cut we were all pleased with. We always knew we had something special and that people were connecting to the film's subject, but, man, there were times it was so grueling. But we never stopped believing in the project. We had developed such an attachment to the man in the film, his family and the people of Ghana that we didn't want to let them down.What part of the film are you proudest of?
I'm most proud of the unexpected things we found while we were in this African village, the history of these people, the effects of Christianity on their culture, and just to be able to show their struggle to survive and their amazing, happy and optimistic attitudes in dealing with the realities of their existence. I'm most proud the film shows the spirit of these people. . . . I think we, as Americans, can learn a lot from them. The response we have had from various screenings has really inspired us and made it all worth it.
Togbe screens at Edwards Island, 999 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach. April 18, 1 p.m.
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